Self-enforcing Partisan Procedures

Daniel Diermeier (University of Chicago)
Carlo Prato (Columbia University)
Razvan Vlaicu (Inter-American Development Bank)

Abstract: We study how polarization affects procedural choice in deliberative bodies. Using a multi-stage Romer-Rosenthal bargaining framework, we analyze how a group chooses a procedure (specifying members’proposal rights) to bargain over a one-dimensional policy. When members bargain over procedures, they do not know whether their interest will be fully aligned across party lines (high-polarization issues) or somewhat heterogeneous (low-polarization issue), and they cannot commit not to revoke them after learning the issue. Our notion of policy polarization captures both the likelihood of a high-polarization issue and the degree of intraparty heterogeneity under a low-polarization issue. We establish that in equilibrium proposal rights will be (i) concentrated in the hands of a few non-moderate members, and (ii) systematically biased in favor of the majority party. As policy polarization increases, so does the partisan bias in equilibrium procedures.